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Homer Bailey and testifying to Patience, Big Arms

Joe Robbins

Question: Why do first-round draft picks and top pitching prospects get so many chances?

Answer: Homer Bailey

Tuesday night, Homer Bailey pitched the second no-hitter in his career and joined this fairly exclusive list. But Bailey also joined a far more exclusive club. Here's the complete list of pitchers who have thrown two no-hitters, with nobody else throwing a no-hitter in the middle:

Addie Joss (Hall of Fame)
Johnny Vander Meer
Allie Reynolds
Warren Spahn (Hall of Fame)
Nolan Ryan (Hall of Fame)
Homer Bailey

Vander Meer finished his career with a losing record, but missed two prime seasons during World War II and does own the singular distinction of throwing no-hitters in consecutive starts. Reynolds finished with a brilliant 182-107 record, and anchored the staffs for Casey Stengel while the Yankees were winning five straight World Series. You know all about Warren Spahn and Nolan Ryan; the latter actually accomplished this feat twice in the 1970s.

And Homer Bailey ... Well, I think it's safe to say that nobody saw this coming, say, just a couple of years ago. Heading into 2011, Bailey's career ledger, covering parts of four seasons, included 16 wins, 16 losses, and a 5.09 ERA. So why did management keep running him out there?

Because Homer Bailey had a big arm. His big arm got him drafted with the seventh overall pick back in 2004. His big arm made him the Reds' No. 1 after his first pro season, and his second pro season, and his third pro season (it would have been four straight, except Jay Bruce blew through three levels of the minors when he was 20).

Homer Bailey's big arm kept getting him chances, even through a series of nagging injuries and ... well, if Homer Bailey didn't have a big arm, the Reds and just about any other team would have given up on him. Because those four years of top prospecthood were followed by four years of disappointment. He finally showed signs of really developing in 2011, but managed only 22 starts and finished with a 4.43 ERA.

But the Reds just wouldn't give up. Season after season after season, they penciled him into their pitching rotation and hoped for the best. And finally, last year in paid off. Last year, Homer Bailey tied for the National League lead with 33 starts, topped 132 innings for the first time in his career, and pitched a no-hitter in September. It was the last no-hitter of 2012, and now he's pitched the first no-hitter of 2013. Welcome to the club, kid.

Except Homer Bailey's not really a kid any more. He's been a professional for nine years, and a major leaguer for nearly six. The Reds waited, and they waited, and they waited some more. Because of that big arm.

It doesn't always pay off. There's a long list of pitchers with big arms who just kept getting chances, and never quite became the pitcher that Homer Bailey's become. Bobby Witt comes to mind, and Todd Van Poppel, and Kris Benson, and Steve Trout, and all the guys who weren't as good as those guys.

This time it paid off. Because that big arm is still there. Tuesday night, the Giants knew what was coming. Bailey threw 109 pitches, and 84 of those were fastballs. Nearly all the rest were sliders. By the ninth, Bailey didn't even bother with the sliders. When it was finished, Mike Krukow said, "You cannot pitch a baseball game, with a fastball, better than he did tonight. That was spectacular."

Which it was. But nearly as spectacular has been the Cincinnati Reds' brilliant patience with their biggest of arms.

For much more about Bailey and the Reds, please visit SB Nation's Red Reporter.

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